Hurricane Tech – Make your Smartphone a WiFi Hot Spot with Tethering

WiFi TetherWhen the Power is out, if you do not have a Generator, access to the Internet through your home or office Wired or WiFi Router will be out as well.  Fortunately, Smartphones and many WiFi capable devices such as iPad’s, eReader’s, and Notebook Computers can run on Battery Power when Electrical Power is not available.

A technology called “Tethering” allows many Smartphones to share their Internet data connection capability through the embedded WiFi in the Smartphone.  This enables the Smartphone to become a mobile Hot Spot, similar to a MiFi so that any other WiFi enabled device, like your WiFi only iPad, eReader, or Notebook Computer can access the Internet through your Smartphone.

(For more details on mobile data Internet connections, see my article “Mobile Communications Technology Overview”.)

In many cases the Cellular Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint charge an extra monthly fee for the Tethering capability and a separate Data Plan for the additional usage.  This is especially true if your phone has a grandfathered “Unlimited Data Plan.”  Verizon requires Unlimited Data Plan users to have a separate data plan for Tethering.  With the new Verizon Share Everything Plans, the Data usage and Tethering capability are included and you only pay for the Data you use across all of the devices on your Share Everything Plan.  With other Carriers you may still be required to pay an extra fee for the Tethering capability of your Smartphone.

However, every rule has its’ exceptions.  With certain Smartphones based on the Android mobile operating system, (that would be most phones that are NOT iPhones, Windows based, or Blackberry’s), “unofficially” no additional fee is required.  At Verizon, it is official, based on the FCC Tethering consent decree in July 2012. You need only to browse the Google Play Store, searching on the word, “Tethering” to download an “App” that can turn the Tethering Feature “On” for you.

To clarify:  If you have either a 3G or 4G Tiered Data (like the Verizon Share Everything Plan or AT&T Mobile Share Plan), you can download any number of 3rd Party Apps which will enable your Android to Tether and become Mobile Hot Spot.  Unlimited Data Plan Users technically still need to pay Verizon or AT&T a Tethering Fee and have a separate data plan.  You should call your Cellular Carrier to verify the usage terms of your Agreement.

Be advised that right now some of the Carriers seem to be ignoring this grey area of the usage policy but that is subject to change. Keep in mind that the Carrier will absolutely know if you are sharing your Smartphone Data capability using Tethering – so you have been warned.  It is possible that you could get a call or letter from your mobile phone Carrier stating that you need to pay an additional fee or purchase an additional data plan.

A Special Note for iPhone Users:  If your iPhone supports Tethering, (IOS 4 or later), you may need to use either the USB Charging Cable or pair the Notebook Computer with your iPhone via Bluetooth to use the Internet capability of your phone with your Notebook Computer.  If you have an iPhone5, then you can definitely Tether via WiFi as described above. IOS 6 has a built-in App for turning the iPhone5 in to a Mobile Hot Spot. (Apple prefers to call it a “Personal Hot Spot.”)  If you use the native Apple IOS 6 App, you will definitely need either one of the NEW Mobile Share Plans from AT&T or the one of the NEW Share Everything Plans from Verizon or similar plan from your Carrier.

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